Beware of Robots!

A former tech executive will be making a bid for the U.S. presidency. He will be focusing on the negative consequences of automation which he describes as the robot apocalypse. His name is Andrew Yang.

He is a well-connected New York businessman who is mounting a long-shot bid for the White House. Mr Yang, who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete – yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.

“There’s no time to mess around with think-tank papers and super PACs, because the clock is ticking.”

Ray Myers


Nose in Books, Eyes on the Screen

So what’s really wrong with walking around with your eyes on your mobile phones while passerbys navigate their way around you?  More dangerous is the practice of driving while texting in terms of disregard for your own safety and that of others.  In the past the only similar practice I can recall that was seen as more of an anti-social behavior than a hazard to your own safety and others was keeping your “nose in a book.”  But I don’t recall seeing many people driving while reading an old-fashioned “hardbound” or paperback text.  At least I don’t think there were many car collisions attributed to people reading paperbacks while driving.

More disconcerting or hazardous (at least to me) are the anti-social implications of keeping your head down at social gatherings and not meeting or conversing with old friends and new acquaintances.  Being online there are always friends and family you can chose to be connected with and never be “out of touch.”  While you may chose to never have your head “in the clouds” again, you may also find yourself trapped in the world of social media to the detriment of having a real time “social life.”  I know I am portraying the extremes of a social media obsession, and that my observations are not scientifically based, but please take a look at your own social media life.  There may also be a generational gap here, and a personal preference for what constitutes a broader social life.  It still remains your own personal choice in terms of what “worlds” we chose to habitate and to what degree.

So now let’s look up and smell and see the roses!

Ray Myers

Shopping Online With Your Chatbot

Need someone to go shopping with?  Well maybe that’s not done so much any more, and you probably don’t need someone after all if you have Chatbot.  And you really don’t need a salesperson to help you since you will be online, and Chatbot will be there programmed to answer all of your anticipated questions.  At this rate there may not be any brick and mortar stores (malls?) to stroll through in the near future.  What’s going to happen to all of those gigantic shopping malls and parking garages?  As more shopping goes online, maybe they will morph into “distribution centers” where your purchases are shipped to your home, saving you from the inconvenience of having to go to a store to shop.

This is the future that many social media entrepreneurs are banking on.  “Facebook said it was opening up Messenger, it’s own messaging app, so that any outside company – from Applebee’s to Zara – could create a bot capable of interacting with people through the chat program.”  And Facebook may be the logical and most profitable place to begin.  It already has 900 million regular monthly users of Messenger with more than 15 million businesses having an official brand page on Facebook.

So this is shopping in the virtual world.  But don’t forget that you still need a home with a real address to have everything shipped to.  Or maybe you can just get a really big post office box?  After you buy all that stuff online, you may have to invest in a bigger home that will truly become your castle!

Ray Myers

Dazed and Confused in Silicon Valley

It’s all about stopping terrorism.  Who’s not for that?  And I certainly believe that the individual rights we have as Americans are the envy of most citizens inhabiting this earth, but I think we are now entering an age of increased cyber security demands that may signal the end of the open Internet.  At least the free open access that we have enjoyed over the last four decades.  Ironically it appears to be our attempts at being more “social” on the Intenet that have become the most popular tools for terrorists to co-opt in pursuit of their sinister ends.

 But I may be overreacting.  I should be encouraged that this past week senior executives from our leading tech companies and high-ranking federal officials met in San Jose to try and figure this all out.  The expected participanting companies included YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, LinkedIn and Apple.  Maybe the federal government  will appoint a “Social Media Czar” who will keep an eye on all this.  I really don’t think that is going to happen, but I am not really that sure how we will be able to protect freedom of speech while establishing new rules to determine when that freedom has been abused in social media?  

We may soon learn what some of those changes may be, but we may find that we can not be as socialable on social media as we once were.  Perhaps there will be some ingenious, creative solution upon which all can agree.  Let’s hope that this “Gordian knot” of government policy and individual freedoms can  be untied.

Ray Myers

“Huddled Masses (with Smartphones) Yearning to be Free.”

So we are not talking about the good old days when European immigrants crossed the Atlantic to start a new life in the United States.  Today’s migrants from the Middle East (predominantly Syrian) are going overland through the Balkans hoping to arrive safely in Hungary, their gateway for other destinations in Europe.   Thanks to their GPS-equipped smartphones they are also able to avoid the expense of paying traffickers who have traditionally provided that such “travel”services for a fee.  And then there is Facebook.

This renowned global social networking site has now become host to such groups as “Smuggling Yourself to Europe Withoit a Trafficker” and providing analytics reports on safe water distribution centers in Aleppo as well as real-time accounts of mortar rounds falling on Damascus.  This is not your grandmother’s Facebook (if she is using social media).  This is about real time, real war and real tragedy in a war-torn part of the world.

Tragically, many people have lost everything, but those fortunate enough to possess a smartphone can still cling to memories of their past.  One man lost his wife, but still had her photographs on his smartphone.

Ray Myers

Privacy Wars in Europe – In Your Face(book)!

I guess there are technology boundaries after all.  The European Union has announced draft data protection legislation for its twenty-eight member states.  This draft legislation contains thirty-five different rules.  So let’s all get ready for these states to interpret all these different rules differently!  Facebook has already dealt with one of their apps, Moments, being identified as a potential violation of individual’s privacy.  Europeans now have the choice of opting-in to this facial recognition technology.

Perhaps the larger question in terms of regulating the plethora of new apps and technology features that will evolve in the U.S. and made available globally, is how and who will monitor them for their privacy protections?  Can twenty-eight EU member states maintain a united front in their application of new protective legislation.  How will this effect the development of innovative technologies within Europe.  Will they be spending most of their time ensuring that their application meet new (proposed) regulations?

Some will say that the tech business has a corporate responsibility to manage data responsibly.  This all has a familiar ring, “I don’t know what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.”

Ray Myers

Let Facebook Be Your Guide

I know I have been posting frequently about Facebook’s role in the social media world, but they are truly becoming the leader in shaping your reading habits. Or should I say making you more comfortable in just subscribing to the news you want to read. Other tech companies are also competing in this contest of becoming subscribers’ gateway to the digital world; such as Google starting a social network, Amazon making a phone, and Apple helping you shop online.

Now what’s wrong with that? I guess that’s something we all have to decide, but a couple things come to mind as possible pitfalls in self-selecting the news or information we want to receive. When the protests were happening in Ferguson, Missouri, there was little commentary on these events on Facebook. One advertising website recently reported that just three years ago, forty percent of traffic came from search engines and fourteen percent from social media. Today, social media has outpaced search engines as the preferred gateway to that site.

I may be overreacting but I hope that we will all maintain some autonomy in the use of our digital “guides.” ┬áLet’s be careful that they don’t become our “Big Brothers.”

Ray Myers

Facebook and the Decline of Partisanship?

So in the new age of social media do we really get opposing views on any one site (e.g., Facebook). This is clearly not a new question since it has been debated since the advent of civilizations reporting on reliable sources of information. Do we really expect objectivity on what is now reported in our modern times since we now have Internet connecting us online from anywhere in the world?

Regardless of what research may prove, I think that the whole question of ensuring objectivity in online reporting, be it Facebook or any other “crowd sourced” internet platform, is in itself a contradiction in terms. What we may actually have now is the 21st Century version of the “vox populi.” To expect that somehow we can now feel comfortable with a self- regulating objectivity is patently delusional. The Internet may be many things, but it does not ensure a balanced unbiased world view.

We now seem to mistakenly believe that our ability to connect with anyone at anytime will lead us to a new Age of Enlightenment. I think that this is what they also may have thought about the printing press!

Ray Myers

Social Media and Wall Street

Maybe Wall Street just expected too much from social media. Initially very eager to invest in some of the Internet darlings, e.g., Twitter, LinkedIN, Yelp, they are not seeing the positive financial returns they eagerly expected.

I am really not sure what all of this may mean for the future of social media, but investors who are looking for a return on their stock portfolios will assuredly be looking elsewhere. I don’t believe this will have an immediate impact on the usage and attraction of social media for current and future generations of the Internet Age.

Perhaps in the longer run we will find a return to more face-to-face interactions, but in the meantime we always have FaceTime and Facebook!

Ray Myers